In his column yesterday, East Bay Express columnist Robert Gammon wrote that outgoing schools chief Kimberly Statham “cheated nearly forty thousand children” out of more than $40 million in unspent funds. It was accompanied by a cute picture of Statham sitting on a pile of cash.
Gammon was referring to the surplus reported at last week’s board meeting as the district closed the books on the 2006-07 school year. He blamed much of it on Statham –more specifically, on her long weekend trips to visit her husband and son in Maryland (a critique of the soon-to-be-ex state administrator that we reported last week).
Gammon raises an important issue — it is important for a school system to spend the money it has, especially when it has too little of it — but the root of the problem seems to be a heck of a lot more complicated. The unspent fund problem plagued Oakland before Statham and her trips to Maryland. In fact, Statham inherited a huge fund balance (including $18m in restricted program funds – See Row 45) when she came on board, according to an OUSD analysis.
Here’s another bizarre fact to consider: According to the analysis, the district received $13.45 million from the state at the end of the school year, with little time to spend it.
Oh, and another thing: The $40-plus million surplus Gammon reported seems to include a $9.2 million reserve that the district is required by the state to keep for emergencies (See Row 33).
A question for you all: Why is it so difficult for a district sorely in need of funds to spend what it has?